Saturday, June 28, 2014

Yellowstone: More than just Old Faithful (3)

Continuing from Day 2...

We had such an action-packed day with wildlife the day before that we decided to take it slow and enjoy our last day at Yellowstone. We abandoned our plan to visit Mammoth Hot Springs up north (because that would mean a near 4-hour drive from Jackson Hole!), focusing on the rest of the south loop instead.

Our first stop was West Thumb Geyser Basin, an area which could be easily overlooked by visitors wanting to check out other more popular places. We had a toilet break there the day before, and was only planning to make a quick stop on Day 3.

Turns out, we were so taken by the beauty of the place that we stayed longer than expected. The basin's proximity to Yellowstone Lake meant that we had spectacular views of the lake and the Absaroka Range.

It also meant we could see temporarily submerged cones and geysers. The lake's water level is higher in spring/early summer due to melting snow, hence the vents near the shore would be covered. 

On the day of visit, we even saw three kayakers paddling close to the vents of Lakeshore Geyser. It must be quite an extraordinary experience, going so close to an underwater geyser! 

Our next stop was Norris Geyser Basin. The area is huge with two different components - the Porcelain Basin and the Back Basin. Admittedly, after three days of geysers, we weren't impressed with just any geyser. We needed to see unique ones! 

One of the more interesting geysers at the Norris area is Steamboat Geyser, touted as the world's tallest active geyser. It is highly unpredictable, and obviously, it did not erupt while we were there. Insert sad face.

But we were able to hear a first-hand account of its last eruption on 31 July 2013 from ranger Cindy, where it shot water and steam up to 300-foot high. That's close to a 30-storey building. Who would have thought there's so much power hidden in this harmless looking geyser?

Our third and last stop was the Fountain Paint Pot Trail, an area as lovely as its namesake. This is an easy 0.5-mile loop on the boardwalk. Pastel colour lovers would dig this place; even the bacterial mats are of a soft-hued orange.

What I loved most about this place was the Red Spouter, a muddy hot spring that seemed like a geyser as it angrily spews reddish water a few feet high. Its colour is distinct.

As a farewell token, I was also sprayed by the nearby Clepsydra Geyser. This geyser, whose name means "water clock" in Greek, erupts almost without pause. I was caught by surprise as the change in wind direction brought down water on the bystanders on the deck.

Is this the rite of passage for a true Yellowstonian?

And then, it was time to bid Yellowstone goodbye. I have fulfilled a childhood dream of visiting this world famous park. 

Would it be strange if I say the trip was educational as well as emotional? It's like, you just spent three quality days with someone who has always been around, whom you have never taken the time to understand, and suddenly you felt closer to that person?

I felt a marked connection to the Earth we live in.

That's what Yellowstone did for me.

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